Baseball season being delayed has robbed me of my fantasy baseball distraction, for the most part. I can still look for diamond-in-the-rough players to add to my team, which won’t matter unless they actually end up playing ball this year, and as far as that goes, who knows.
Anyway, I need to replace one of my outfielders, so I’ve been scanning the waiver wire. It occurred to me that I didn’t remember seeing anyone draft Scooter Gennett, the most dominant batter in a Reds uniform for almost two full seasons, from 2017-18. So I looked him up in the fantasy app, and the app reported that he’s not on any team. Not, like, any of our twelve fantasy teams, but on any baseball team, anywhere.
Incredulous, I dug further.
I remembered the Reds traded him away during his injury/down year of 2019 to the Giants. What I didn’t know was that the Giants cut him a month later, which was shocking to me. This guy batted .310 over the entire 2018 season, with 23 home runs, and gets cut the next year. Hit four home runs in a single game in 2017, which has been done only eighteen times in like a century and a half of professional baseball. 2020 arrives and he’s homeless.
I came across an article called “I Feel Terrible For Scooter Gennett,” which explained the situation, saying basically Scooter may have been riding an epic hot streak, based on his luck numbers (his BABIP, which measures how often you get a hit when you make contact with the ball, was well above average). But also, though, he really had improved in some other areas (fewer strikeouts, more power), so he’d put himself in the position to earn his reputation, to prove it wasn’t just luck. But then he hurt himself during 2019 spring training. He had to miss three months, after which he tried so hard to make a comeback, his strikeouts jumped way up, his batting average went way down, and the Reds traded him away while he still had any market value at all.
The way the article frames it, the pity factor alluded to in the title is not just about a lost opportunity, but lost money. He was in his final year of his contract. He was born in Cincinnati and wanted to keep playing there, and would’ve likely taken a long-term deal at some point mid-season before free agency, probably netting him a $40-$50 million payday, or maybe more if he’d signed with another team.
Instead, he’s probably done. At age 29, plenty of good years left in him, but because of weird rules with how much you have to pay someone who’s played a certain number of seasons, he’s deemed not worth the investment, not worth the risk. He’s most likely retired from playing Major League Baseball, having only pocketed… $17 million over the course of his career.
This last bit set off the sports fan commenters. Oh, boo-hoo, little crybaby only made $17 million. Professional athletes play a game for a living, it’s like they won the lottery, I’d like to make even a tenth of that at my regular-ass job, etc.
The same day, I saw that the number of COVID deaths in the US had reached the seating capacity of Lambeau Field, where the Green Bay Packers play (81,441).
A Quick Aside About COVID,
because by law, everything in 2020 must somehow incorporate COVID. The death toll as of today is 90,694, which is greater than the seating capacity of any NFL stadium. They’ve reopened the beaches on Tybee Island, and this past weekend some 25,000 people reportedly flocked to the coast—and it’s not that big a coast. My friends back in Ohio are posting pictures of bars and restaurants and barbershops packed with people. The end of this is not yet in sight.
All of which got me thinking. We, as a country, have absolutely no idea what real wealth inequality looks like.
I could just point you to this brilliant website here, but instead, let’s stick with sports, since people seem to be able to work up an ire towards the wealth accumulated there.
The general perception of wealth inequality in America goes something like this: Here’s little old me, a perfectly average, typical American, doing my work, getting my paycheck. I am a Good Boy. I like football. If given the chance, I go down to my local NFL football stadium and watch the football players play some football, and I wear my cheese-wedge hat and drink the cheapest of the overpriced beers and yell at the refs and generally enjoy myself, so long as I don’t think too hard on how much these people on the field are earning simply to entertain me. If I do happen to think about that, I can comfort myself by looking at the stadium around me, at all of the 81,440 other Average Joes doing exactly what I’m doing, and I can formulate a sense of propriety in my head (at least long enough to excuse and forget my jealousy, because I mean just look at that kicker, what is he, like fifty? He couldn’t bench press a Barbie, he looks like his grandkids have grandkids, and you know I used to have a pretty good leg myself, that could so be me right now). That sense of propriety is emotional, not logical: sure, there’s maybe, what, 200 people down there, making all their millions, but there’s 81,441 of us up here, and you put all of us together, it feels like we would have the upper hand. After all, we’re the ones buying the tickets, paying their salaries. Collectively, we have to be making more dough than all 200 of those millionaires down on the field. Right?
Well, I always say, why speculate. Let’s crunch some numbers.
The median American has a yearly income of $33,706, and an accumulated net worth (total assets minus total debts) of $97,300, at least as of 2017. The median NFL player income is $860,000, but the median net worth is apparently not a statistic anyone has put in the legwork to figure out for me. So I’m just going to make my best guess, based on three primary factors: 1) part of the reason a 50th percentile American has triple their yearly income in net worth is because net worth is calculated by household, not by individual, 2) it is possible to build your net worth a lot faster than the 50th percentile American if you’re making about $830,000 more per year, but 3) most NFL players are in their 20s, and all people in their 20s everywhere, without exception, are stupid with money and only get dumber the more money they have, and in this case, the more brain damage they suffer on a regular basis. Ooh, and I guess it’s four factors, because D) the average player only lasts about six years in the NFL, give or take a year. So I suppose the median of that would be three years? Like, the median player is currently in his third season, I guess?
A Quick Aside About Medians
I’m trying really hard to stay away from saying “average” or using the mathematical average on any of these figures, because both in the NFL and in this country, the average is vastly skewed by the exponential growth curve at one end. If I have 9994 pancakes, and Billy has 3 pancakes and Susie has 2 pancakes and Steve has 1 pancake and poor Jenny has zero pancakes, on average we all have 2000 pancakes. But Susie and her 2 pancakes is the median, which is a lot better representation of the growth rate overall.
Likewise, the “average” American has a net worth of $692,100, which, if you tell this fact to the vast majority of Americans, they’re going to look at you like you just told them they have 2000 pancakes.
Anyway, I decided on $3 million as the median net worth. Just, kind of pulled that one out of my ass, but hey, let’s roll with it.
If you are anything like my hypothetical example above, if you feel like the combined crowd is going to have more resources, more net worth, than the combined rich a-holes down there wearing matching costumes and dancing coordinated full-ensemble ballets every time they reach the end zone, well, you would actually be correct. My rough and sometimes baseless estimates suggest one rich snooty concussed median football player would be canceled out by between 25 and 30 of us regular un-wealthy folk. That’s only an attendance of 5000-6000, not even a tenth of a capacity crowd.
Another Quick Aside re My Hasty Estimations
Yes, I know the NFL roster is capped at 53 and the practice squad at 10, meaning only 63 players at one time, per team, count against the salary cap, which is 126 total people, not the 200 I’ve referred to above. But bear with me, I’m going somewhere, here. And anyway I didn’t factor in all the coaches (who, aside from the head coach and certain lead coordinators, are also nearly impossible to track down an accurate salary for) and training staff and referees and cheerleaders and reporters and photographers and security guards, so really 200 people on the field is probably a vast underestimate. It’s probably more like 400, to be honest, only about 130 of whom I can actually look up their salaries, but even if it is 400 people, and even if they did all make $860,000 with a net worth of $3 mil, we’re still only looking at 11,000-12,000 fans canceling them out, and anyway I’m totally ignoring the actual salary cap for NFL teams, which this year is going to be $198 million, which has some wiggle room on the plus or minus side, but even assuming both teams on the field are right around the salary cap with their 63 players each, that’s still only 12,734 fans needed to cancel them out. So, you know. Don’t worry too much about it. I already have.
This is, in a nutshell, how we feel about rich people in America. Sure, these millionaires may talk a big game, but let’s see how big they are when I get 12,000 of my closest friends to back me up—or even a full stadium. That’s me and 81,000 of my closest buds, you highfalutin so-and-sos, what now?? If money was water, you’d be on the wrong side of the dam, Chiefs.
The reality of wealth distribution, however, is much, much, much much much, much much much much much much much different.
Let’s try replacing athlete-rich people with the actual rich. Like, the most richest of the rich. America has 614 current billionaires, as of this writing, according to Forbes, which, when you think about it, is just a horrible, horrible thing, is Forbes. Hey Forbes? You’re horrible. I’m not even going to link you, you’re so horrible. Essential for my current research, but still. Horrible.
…Moving on. China is next on the list with 389 billionaires, despite having more than four times our population. (Just that. That should be enough to clarify the egregiousness. Given that China has turned exploitation of labor into an art form, yet we’re still outpacing them in billionaires by a factor of ten, that really ought to be enough.) I’m only focusing on American wealth here, but wherever you park your horse in this world, when you’re super-mega rich they tend to measure your super-wealth in net worth instead of income, so that’s what I’ll be using as our Average Joe comparison, is the median net worth of $97,300.
Are you with me? Are you picturing this? We’ve got Bill Gates down there, trying on shoulder pads that swallow him up to his glasses, and we’ve got Mark Z, nerd supreme, looking at a football like he’s never held one before, which is actually possible because he’s only fucking 36 oh my god what have I done with my life, and riding in on a golden golf cart is J. Bizzle himself, the Amazon king, trying to get everyone to kiss his replica Super Bowl rings which he has on every finger and which actually aren’t replicas, he just bought them all, mostly from the ‘99 Broncos, and Warren Buffet’s over there seeing if he can kick a field goal because he’s pushing 90 and literally any contact above a firm handshake might detach his retinas, and the whole Walton clan is having bags of cash just dumped out in front of them as they walk along the sidelines because they’re afraid they might be allergic to anything besides Persian carpet beneath their feet, can you, can you see all of this? These are the people I’m talking about. These 200 people. The 200 richest.
You think a full stadium is going to intimidate them?
No, of course you don’t. You’re not an idiot. Right? Richest has to mean something. 81,000 people isn’t going to be enough to match their buying power, their influence. Clearly, we’re going to need more. The question is, how much more? How many more seats do we need before the median, most representative American net worth, will equal that of these 200 individuals?
Well for starters, let’s add in some more stadia, huh? Why not. Let’s throw the whole NFL at them. Every single stadium, sold out, for this one game. That’s 2,117,070 souls in attendance. Is that enough?
No? Well… how about we add in another pro sport, let’s say baseball, we’ll fill up all of the MLB stadiums and ballparks and whatever that dome-thing is called in Tampa Bay. We’ve got EVERY NFL and EVERY Major League park filled to capacity. That brings us to… 3,403,771 fans in attendance for this one game.
I see by the look on your face we still need some more, so let’s not beat around the bush, here, let’s bring in the NBA and the NHL, which sometimes share arenas but in which case we’ll fill ’em up twice, people sitting on laps now, you better be scared, billionairios, we’ve got all of the NFL, MLB, the NBA, and the NHL, all four major professional sports. That’s 4,519,234 sports fans, sports fans. Surely that’s enough. Right?
Okay. Okay—fill all those places up, sometimes twice, and then we’ll add in every single NCAA Football stadium, every last one, FBS and FCS schools, that’s 6,575,173 and 1,824,545 respectively, and while we’re on campus anyway let’s fill up the basketball arenas, too, every single Division I school, of which there are 338, which is why March Madness takes an entire month, and also brings in another 2,785,139 seats. So now we’ve SOLD OUT the combined 710 sporting facilities of the NFL, MLB, the NBA, the NHL, all of college football and all Division 1 basketball, I’m talking about 15,704,091 people strong! Suck it, you money-hoarding hobgoblins! Now, surely, we are on equal footing, at least.
…Nope. Still not enough.
Fuck. What other sports are left, even?
Oooo! NASCAR! Them sons-of-bitches are H-U-G-E! Let’s fill up every last Sprint Cup track, and you know what, throw in Major League Soccer, too, which, I know, some of them share with football teams, but like I said, we’re butts-on-laps, here, people, this is an emergency. And also, how about… horses! Fucking horse tracks, like Kentucky Derby and shit, every major horse racing track on the circuit! We’ve got horses riding NASCARs playing soccer wearing football helmets and ice skates and holding fucking baseball bats, that’s 19.2 million folks, do we PLEASE have enough people yet no of course we don’t.
Can you just… can you please just tell me what else I need, population-wise. I’ve already gathered up literally half of Canada, I’m kind of at a loss here, just a hint—
The entire state of Colorado?
Okay. Fine. I have now sold out, to all of my most average of friends, all 24.5 million seats available in every stadium or arena or ball park or race track or horse track in all of professional and elite amateur sports, and also the entire state of Colorado. All to watch one. Single. Game.
Hope you got some good seats.
Look, I’m not saying we should have some kind of violent revolution, here (edit: I am 100% saying we should have a revolution, just, it doesn’t have to be violent), but it should probably piss you off at least a little that these uber-wealthy elites, these two hundred combined fortunes which as of yesterday, according to Forbes’ real-time billionaire tracker website (fuck off, Forbes) and my 200-entry Excel spreadsheet, comes to $2.9986 trillion, which is a number that looks like this
2 , 9 9 8 , 6 0 0 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0
divided up amongst 200 people, or I guess, 200 households if you prefer, and also approximately the same amount of wealth divided up among the bottom 60% of this country, or 150 million people in total, which is also actually 150 million households. Or if that doesn’t matter so much to you, because you’re not one of those drug-addled gutter-sniffing poors a-thank you very much, you’ve got you a nine-to-five and a 401k, if you’re a median, well it’s the same amount as 24.5 million clones of you. So how’s that make you feel, Mr. Middle-Class?
Oh, did I mention they’re paying a lower tax rate than you are, too?
One Last and Final Aside
The only arena in which these 200 people cannot have more influence than 24.5 million is in the voting booth. Right now we have two governments, Washington D.C., and Amazon.com. Listen, I am not saying that billionaires are trying to invade or otherwise purchase our sacred of-the-people-by-the-people-shall-not-perish constitutionally mandated representative government. I’m saying they already have invaded it and have all but completely purchased it. There’s Bernie, there’s AOC, and then there’s everybody else who is willing to bend at least some of the rules for corporations in exchange for a few campaign kickbacks. We absolutely need to vote out anyone unwilling to hold these wealth-hoarders accountable by RAISING THEIR GODDAMN TAXES. It is not pure happenstance that when the virus hit the fan, the middle-class crumbled while Bezos thrived.
Oh, and I would really appreciate it if we could also stop characterizing the quarantine protestors as spoiled brats who only want their favorite manicure place to re-open (although some of them definitely are that—there’s always some truth to caricature). For the most part, these are people who are hurting, who already had plenty of income insecurity before the outbreak and who don’t know how to make any money since, and they are nervous and afraid, with good reason. They are being coaxed and cajoled to believe they are unjustly suffering further financial harm, and as a citizens of this country, if a country it can still be called, they have every right to protest unjust suffering.
To those same protestors, specifically: I feel for you. I really do. I have been income insecure for most of my adult life. Paycheck to paycheck has always been my best-case scenario, so, you know. I get it. Unfortunately, though, the reason you are suffering more now is because you backed the wrong horse, you believed the easy fictions, you voted the wrong way, and now because of it we have (hypothetically) packed stadiums but no sports. You voted away your own safety net (as well as everybody else’s), you voted against your own best interests (as well as mine), and now, between the first wave and the second of this massive epidemic, you think you see an easy way out. But it’s not one, it’s another red herring, and you’re only helping to ensure the second wave will eclipse the first.
And also, for the sake of your own image, leave the assault rifles at home, please. Strap-ons are for the dickless.